There are two sides of me. I’d imagine you to consider one a pessimistic side. This side of me has adopted the idea that we are nothing more than an extremely complex growth of bacteria here on planet Earth. It’s the idea that our life is simply a large-scale version of the life we understand and study on a micro level all around us. We – like the trillions of bacteria or germs on the end of a fingernail – are simply reproducing, eating, growing and then dying. Perhaps we are a cancer to planet Earth. Perhaps we’re here to destroy it. What we know is that we are in fact small on the scale of the universe the same way a germ or atom is small on the scale of our every day human life. What we can also infer from the galaxies around us is that we could be one small galaxy in one small universe that is actually one of several small galaxies in several small universes that go on forever and ever and ever. Maybe, even, if our planet were to be viewed by life from a far off distance they would see nothing more than what we see while gazing at a Petri dish though a microscope. Perhaps we’re all here to eat and fuck and die and then eventually – like all things – be consumed by mother earth. In the end, that is what happens, right? We are buried in her and left for the insects and the soil to feed on. Even if we are burnt into ashes and spread on the shores of Cape Cod, the sea will consume us in its own way. So that’s it. We take and take and take and then eventually we give ourselves back to this planet and the battle goes on and on until there is a victor. Everything in between birth and death is inconsequential.
But then there is the side of me that can’t believe that is it.
There is the side of me that thinks of the human story – the complexities, the trials and tragedies, the triumphs. I think of all the names one may encounter in a lifetime. I consider all the eyes that you meet with your own. All the fires that are burnt under the clear West Virginia skies, all the nights spent between people sharing ideas and philosophies and secrets. I consider the bonds between child and parent – the ones that are so strong a mother would step in front of a machine gun to save her son’s life. I think of those moments and I believe there is no E. coli on our planet that would risk its own life to save the life of another.
Each time that pessimistic or realist side of me sees planet earth and humanity as one blob of cancer cells living under roofs, I think of the moments in human history when underestimated men have pushed the limits of reality. I think of Einstein and Shakespeare and Lincoln and the thinkers that came before me and the ones that were born with me and the ones that will come after me and I remind myself that belief in the idea we are just spinning around on one of an infinite number of planets will make it true, make it real. I push that thought out of my head and replace it with the one that says a germ can’t look into a mirror and make itself cry. It can’t recognize its own eyes. It can’t pick out its own insecurities or project them on other people. Right now, with my bacterial thought spreading ironically like a virus, I remind myself of the human story. The way someone’s past can be so known and unknown, infinite in its own complexities as it’s true to some and false to others. I think of the stories of my family I have heard and wonder if maybe – just maybe – we are the first beings or forms of life in all of those atoms and bacteria and planets and galaxies and universes and infinite walls of reality that truly have a conscience, or the ability to recognize our own origins. Maybe we are the pinnacle of all this and maybe we are here to do something we can hardly comprehend yet. And maybe, just maybe, sharing our stories with each other is the way we’ll learn to break the pattern. Perhaps the difference between the bacteria and us is that we can guide the versions of ourselves that will exist in the future here and now. Maybe this moment, this story, this lifetime will be the one that shifts the cosmos and gives us all the answers we’ve been thirsting for.